What does “probate” mean?

Mar 20, 2020

Paul S. Labiner

Paul Labiner


Probate is the court-supervised process of verifying a will and of distributing property as directed in a will or in accordance with Florida law if no will exists. More specifically, the probate process ensures the decedent’s debts and obligations are paid and that the decedent’s property and assets are distributed to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries.

Generally, a probate estate includes only those assets titled in the decedent’s own, individual name. Assets that are held as tenants by the entirety, jointly held with rights of survivorship, and other assets such as life insurance policies, IRAs, and 401Ks do not fall into probate estate. These assets distributed to the survivors or to the designated beneficiaries by the operation of law.

For example, if Michael Bluth dies with stocks certificates titled in his name, a bank account jointly owned with his son, and a 401(k) with his son as the designated beneficiary, only the stock certificates would be required to go through the probate process. His son would own the bank account as the survivor and the 401(k) would distribute to his son as the beneficiary.

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